Chaucer's poetry from Troilus and Criseyde
Woe to the gem that has no native force!
Woe to the herb that has no healing shoot!
Woe to the beauty that knows no remorse
Or pity, but treads others underfoot!
And you, the crop of beauty and its root,
If, in such beauty, pity cannot thrive,
Then it is a pity you should be alive.
Pandarus to Criseyde, persuading her to be nice to Troilus
(Chaucer, Geoffrey; Troilus and Criseyde; translated by Coghill, Neville; Penguin Books, Ltd., Middlesex, UK; 1971; Verse 50, p. 57)
England is rich in beautiful epitaphs. The Victorians seem to have been particularly keen on them. Here are the best that I've found:
"O Horrable Murder"
But lo a charge is drawne, a day is set
The silent Lamb is brought, the Wolves are met;
And where's the Slaughterhouse, Whitehall must be,
Lately his Palace, now his Calvarie
And now, ye Senators, is this the thing
So oft declar'd, Is this your glorious King?
Religion vails her self, and mourns that she
Is forc'd to own such Horrid Villanie
(To Charles I, seen in the Jewel Tower, London; Author unknown)
'Sacred to the Memory of Mrs. Elizabeth Forssteen. She died the 6th of February MDCCXCV, Aged LXXVII'
Of manners mild, to all who knew her dear,
The tender Mother, best of Friends lies here;
Whose darling wish was Comfort to impart,
To chear the drooping, soothe the aching Heart.
Candour and Meekness shone in all she said,
Peace bless'd her Life, and smooth'd her dying Bed.
Dearest of Mothers! best of Friends! farewell!
May this plain Stone a Son's Affection tell,
Thro' Life, they Virtues were his Joy and Pride,
In Death, his best Example and his Guide:
Our social Cares and hopes alas! are o'er,
The Love Maternal chears this heart no more!"
(Seen on a wall plaque in St. Andrew's Undershaft, London, 2004)
To Rachel Charlotte O'Brien, died December 13, 1800, aged 19. Her clothes caught afire and she rushed out of the room, disregarding her safety to prevent her own child catching afire.
If sense, good humour, and a taste refin'd
With all that ever grac'd a female mind;
If the fond mother, and faithful wife,
The purest, happiest charchters in life;
If these when summon'd to an early tomb,
Cloath'd in the pride of youth, and beauty's bloom,
May claim one tender sympathizing sigh,
Or draw a tear from melting pity's eye,
Here pause, and be the grateful tribute paid,
In sad remembrance to O'brien's shade!
(Exeter Cathedral, 2004)
To Laura, wife of George Ferdinand, Lord Southampton, d. Jun. 10, 1798, aged 34
Farewell, dear shade! - but let this marble tell
What heavenly worth in youth and beauty fell.
With every virtue blest, whate'er thy lot,
To charm a court, or dignify a cot,
In each relation shone thy varied life
Of daughter, mother, friend, and wife.
Seen with delight in fortune's golden ray,
Suffering remained to grace thy parting day;
When smiling languor spoke the candid soul,
And patience checked the sigh affection stole:
The gifts of Heaven in piety confest,
Calmly resigned and every plaint supprest.
The consort's faith, the parent's tender care,
Point the last look, and breathe the dying prayer.
(Exeter Cathedral, 2004)
A Hampshire Rose
What is it about a rose
Which makes one stop in awe?
What is it, I ask of those
Who've seen a rose before.
Could it be special colours
Like that pale, peachy hue?
It can't for other flowers
Show that same beauty too.
Well, it's the perfumed centre
Glorious to the nose.
Yet a rose'd be much poorer
Without petals enclosed.
Then its shape is the wonder
Or all of these combined!
But no, I say 'tis rather
Beauty does not curve in Form,
This I now understand.
Her secret is far beyond
Philosophy of man.
Still I gaze and contemplate
And though mysterious she
O Venus, can thou not make
Her fall in love with me?
Roses of Regent's
I will return to see the roses bloom
Gaily to Regent's Park one afternoon
Oh yes, one sunny afternoon in June
I will return to see the roses bloom.
For I did go there one evening last May
Gaudy ducks and flowers cheered my day
But the roses slept sound to my dismay
Whence I questioned Fate, whom to me did say,
"Gallant knight, I only promise you this
Though you may enjoy no more of life's bliss
Or your lady-love have another's kiss
The roses of Regent's you shall not miss."
So Wind, I pray you hold your breath until
Cupid marks my lady's heart with my quill
While fearless, I tempt Death with any thrill
As Regent's roses I must yet see still.